Hearts boss Craig Levein’s best quotes from season 2017/18

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As Hearts got their season underway in July with a trip to Elgin City in the Betfred Cup, few could have envisaged the season would end with Craig Levein back at the helm.

Yet, after a dismal League Cup group stage exit ,Ian Cathro was sacked four days before the start of the Ladbrokes Premiership season. With no stand-out candidate, Ann Budge appealed for Levein to return to the Hearts dug-out for a second spell, following his successful time in charge between 2000 and 2004.

The season has been a tumultuous one at the renovated Tynecastle Park and it has been made more interesting with Levein and his media duties.

Here are some of his best quotes from the season ...

On taking over as manager in August:

Craig Levein

Craig Levein

“The club is going in the right direction. This is a job I’ll like, even though I know it will be tough.”

Levein also explained the purpose of a director of football, a position he still has:

“The role of a DoF is a supporting role, it is not a question of me saying ‘do this, do that’. I’ve tried to explain this. If I was doing that, then I’d never find out if the coach is any good. Nobody knows if he is going to be a good coach until he is in the position and making decisions.”

On Ian Cathro’s reign at Hearts:

“Although he was at Dundee United, he was never anywhere near the first team or the culture of football in Scotland. Headers, corners, set pieces, long throws, second balls, all these things are synonymous with Scottish football but they aren’t in Portugal, certainly not in Spain and to a lesser degree in England.”

In September he had a swipe at a club, believed to be Rangers, and their pursuit of the Jamie Walker:

“If I was Jamie I’d be a little bit disappointed that a lot of the promises that were made to him weren’t kept. And not from our club.”

That same month he gave fans an early hint at what to expect from David Milinkovic:

“I like David – he’s something different.”

On Kyle Lafferty admitting to having a gambling problem:

“Looking at it purely from a football point of view, he has had these problems for ages and, credit to him, he even managed to play at the Euros while it was going on, which I just find remarkable.”

Levein was delighted the club opened a performance school at Balerno High School in October:

“I’m hoping in years to come we’ll be looking at this as a very significant day in Hearts’ history.”

On the 1-0 defeat to Hibs at Easter Road in October and his regret at not starting Harry Cochrane:

“We ended up giving it away, than defending. Giving it away, and then defending.”

He gave his take on the Ross Callachan and Marvin Bartley twitter spat which followed the game:

“It used to be you were man enough to say something on the field. I’ve not spoken to Ross about it. Maybe Ross will Tweet him back with something nasty. What a nonsense.”

A 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock at BT Murrayfield in November left Levein frustrated:

“I’m standing on the touchline, we aren’t playing well, we’re passing the ball backwards, it’s going back to the goalie, then to the centre-back, and back to the goalie again. I’m not feeling good about it. I know how to make the Hearts supporters happy, and that’s to do more of what we did in the second half – go forward. Going forward with a bit of pace is what we all want.”

On the new Main Stand ahead of its opening against Partick Thistle:

“It’s a miracle.”

Levein had strong words for former Hearts player and current pundit Michael Stewart in December:

“It is personal with Michael and he is just making a fool of himself. I don’t particularly like him and I hear he doesn’t like me. For him to admit that he has an agenda and for them (BBC) to still allow him the platform, for me, that is a nonsense.”

He continued: “Someone was telling me that he was trawling about on Saturday night trying to find stuff on the internet to prove that we hadn’t played well. It is hysterical. He just needs to chill. He’s going to self-combust one day, that’s for sure.

And finished by having his say on signing Stewart for the club in 2004:

“We had to put something on the contract so it was £1 a week and, without doubt, it was the worst value for money I have ever had from any player, and that is a fact.”

A 1-1 draw with Hamilton Academical in December left Levein angered with referee Bobby Madden:

“Some of the decisions were bizarre. I really don’t understand what was going on.”

On thumping Celtic 4-0 to end their 69-game unbeaten domestic run:

“I think we were in the 89th minute when I thought ‘we’re going to actually win this’. It’s just reward for the efforts the players put in.”

Levein admitted the club’s fortune when an Oli Shaw effort which crept over the line in the 0-0 draw with Hibs at Tynecastle wasn’t spotted:

“We did get out of jail.”

He responded to Hibs boss Neil Lennon’s comments that Hearts tried to kick Hibs off the park:

“Lenny forgets I watched him play. I’ve got to laugh. He made a career out of kicking people.”

In January, Levein wasn’t happy to see Marc Leonard’s decide to move to Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion:

“I don’t want any of our kids to go down to England until they are first-team players but he has made his decision.”

On defeating Hibs 1-0 in the Scottish Cup fourth round with a scrappy goal:

“We managed to bundle the ball over the line and I was almost hoping it wasn’t in. That would’ve been brilliant.”

He also had his say on the Edinburgh derby in general:

“I don’t like this idea that Hibs were gaining any sort of momentum and I want to try to restore the natural order of things.”

It provoked an angry response from Lennon but Levein stood by them:

“Regrets? No, it was a good laugh wasn’t it?”

Levein had his view on Scott Brown after Harry Cochrane was injured in a clash with the Celtic captain during a 3-1 defeat in January:

“I think everybody should get a little bit more protection from Scott Brown.”

Scott Brown blamed the Hearts boss for a yellow he picked up against Kilmarnock. Levein thought there was more to it than that:

“I think it’s a nonsense Scott pointing out that he got booked on Saturday because I made a point of saying he gets away with more than most, although I do actually believe that. Then I looked at his disciplinary record and saw that he was on five bookings and worked out that getting booked means he misses the St Johnstone game — but plays against Rangers. I kind of put two and two together. And I think I’ve come up with four.”

On St Johnstone’s tactics during Hearts’ 3-0 win in the Scottish Cup fifth round:

“Years ago we succumbed to that type of bullying. But we’re a different team now. We’re not soft. If people put the ball on top of us we deal with it. We stand up to being challenged. St Johnstone found that out today.”

On defeat to Motherwell in the next round:

“The first-half performance was terrible.”

Levein stoked up the fire ahead of the fourth derby of the season in March:

“You are always just sitting below the volcano exploding. It’s who can control that the best. So I hope they are really uptight about it.”

Levein revealed he wasn’t keen on French midfielder Malaury Martin:

“He’s the type of player Ian wanted his team to play with but he’s not the type of player I want my team to play with. He just doesn’t fit in with what I want to do.”

But he was full of praise for Christophe Berra after defeating Aberdeen in April:

“He’s the best centre-back in the league. I don’t think there’s anybody who could look at him. He just does the same thing week in and week out. His performance drop off is half a per cent, if that, which is amazing.”

The club’s wretched away form baffled the Hearts boss in April:

“It puzzles me how our performances away from home can be so different to how we perform at home.”

On signing veteran striker Steven MacLean:

“One of the things that I like, and this might sound quite strange, but I like the fact he has never been able to run.”

Levein responded strongly to Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers’ claims that he was “embarrassed” about the Tynecastle pitch:

“I would have hated to see the fury and the froth if they had actually lost the game. If we want to talk about a level playing field, if they bring a team through here that earn the same money as our players do, then we will put them out on the pitch and see who wins.”

More on Rodgers’ pitch jibe where the Hoops boss pointed to Scotland’s failure to reach major finals:

“So if we cut all the grass short, then we’ll go to the finals? Brilliant. Why did nobody think of that? That’s just unbelievable.”

And on Rodgers’ thoughts that the pitch hampers the development of players:

“The development of players for me is about giving them the opportunity to play - much, much more than the length of the grass. That is a serious comment.”

When asked if he asked the groundsman to keep the grass longer than usual he said:

“Maybe.”

Levein was fulsome in his praise of Cochrane’s potential after this month’s 2-1 win over Hibs:

“I’m really excited about seeing how he develops, as should everyone else be in Scotland. I’m sure he’ll be an international player of the future.”

He also hit back at Lennon for comments made in March calling Hearts “irrelevant” to Hibs:

“We’ve put them out of the Scottish Cup and now stopped them from finishing second. I think we’re relevant.”

On Kyle Lafferty:

“Kyle doesn’t need four chances to get a goal. He just scores.”

On David Milinkovic:

“He provides energy. Sometimes it’s just energy, nothing else, but it has an impact on the match. I really like him. I love him to bits, actually, but his retention of information at times is something else.”

He was left mystified at the club’s injury list ahead the 1-0 defeat to Kilmarnock last weekend:

“I’ve never seen anything like that in a million years.”